After sweating it out while running alone on the dirt roads of his family’s property at Coonamble, Ned Hanigan can’t wait to get back into action on the field this weekend.
The Wallabies flanker and his NSW Waratahs teammates play host to the Hurricanes in Saturday’s opening round of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
Hanigan and his side have been hard at work since early January, when pre-season really ramped up, but the country product didn’t let himself slip while home for the holidays.
“Everyone is just excited footy is back,” he said.
“We’ve been running up hills for four weeks and I was back at home running on a dirt road at by myself so it’s good to be back.
“Everyone is keen to have the football back in their hands.”
Hanigan will be part of a new-look Waratahs pack this season, will South African Le Roux Roet adding some serious size while Wallaby Jack Dempsey is primed to enjoy a stellar 2019 after a horror run with injuries.
Dempsey’s return could mean a real battle for the flanker and lock positions, with Wallabies captain Michael Hooper a lock while Rob Simmons and Will Miller are also firmly in the running.
Despite the changes, the focus is firmly on producing a fast and flowing style of rugby.
“Mobile around the field and then back our fitness towards the end of the game,” Hanigan said of the Tahs’ approach.
“You want to be big and fast but the style we play and the playmakers we have, we want to give them as much front-foot ball as possible and work inside and outside of them.
“Mobility and speed is definitely at the forefront of our mind.”
Coach Daryl Gibson has hinted he now has the depth to rest players more often, ensuring his stars are not only fresh for a finals campaign but also the Wallabies’ World Cup quest later this year.
The depth boosted by new signings, which also include experienced outside backs Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper, and a promising run to last season’s semi-finals has those in the Waratahs camp feeling extremely positive this season.
Downing the sides from New Zealand, as always, will be key with this Saturday’s clash at Brooklvale Oval offering the opportunity to start in style.
“We want to make sure everyone from the bush to the beach comes to the game and when they leave, whether we win or lose, they’re proud of the effort we put in,” Hanigan said.
Wallabies scrumhalf Nick Phipps remains sidelined with a calf injury and won’t play against the Hurricanes.
Kick-off in the round one clash at a sold out Brookvale Oval at Manly is at 7.45pm on Saturday night.